Miracle in Milan, an involved and rambling screenplay, originally written by Cesare Zavattini in 1940 and later published as a novel entitled Toto the Good, contrasts sharply with the simplicity and warm humanity of [the same writer-director team’s] Bicycle Thief and gives director Vittorio De Sica less opportunities to guide his thespers to those extremely human, heart-warming performances which are his speciality. Whereas Thief was aimed at the audience heart, Miracle is aimed at the brain.
An intellectual fairy tale played against a background of the sharp realities of present-day life, film tells the story of Toto (Francesco Golisano), an orphan boy with a good, innocent approach to life, who joins a colony of beggars in a shack village on the outskirts of Milan. When the rich owner of the land discovers oil under the village and tries to evict the beggars, Toto helps fight them off with the aid of a miraculous dove given him for his good qualities by a friendly fairy.
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The opening sequences, the foster-mother’s funeral, Toto’s arrival at the beggar village, the tramps’ fight for heat on a cold wintry day, the innocent love of Toto and his girl, are among many superb moments which confirm De Sica’s talent. The sharp satire on the oil-greedy industrialist is handled in a broader, perhaps exaggerated manner, and pic is liberally sprinkled with intelligent humor, much of it ironic.
Performances by pros and tyros alike are flawless. Technically difficult special effects by Ned Mann are satisfying if not always convincing.